Serious Education Doesn’t Come In Tidbits

Posted on by in Agent Perspectives

These days, you can’t throw a rock into the travel industry without hitting an Internet forum of some kind.  Travel Research Online has the Community, for instance.  These Internet forums are quite valuable, especially to the home-based professional.  They provide a connection to colleagues all across the country, with different specializations and levels of experience.  Story after story can be told of an agent asking a question on a message board and receiving immeasurable help, from advice for handling difficult situations to destination recommendations.

However, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend at several of the online forums in which I participate: namely, the asking of very basic industry questions.  Some examples include “What is a TC?” (when discussing group cruises), “How do I block group space?”, “Does my client need a visa?”, and many, many more.  These types of questions concern me.  From the client’s perspective, it’s expected that the travel professional have some base level of education in the how-tos and what-nots of the travel industry.  The client expects the professional to know MORE than he does, or know where to find that information.  Otherwise, what good is that professional?

No one expects someone with a desire to go into business for themselves to just set up shop without first researching the industry, learning very basic ropes on business operations, and getting a grip on what they need to know before they open the doors, yet this happens all the time for travel sellers.  The importance of a good basic education in the travel industry cannot be overstated.  Message boards are good for networking, getting detailed, first-hand accounts of a property, or getting a handle on the latest natural disaster to affect our clients; they are NOT a suitable substitute for making an investment in your education as a travel professional.

A formal education program at a community college or university may not be available to you, but if so take advantage of it.  The Travel Institute has several courses that cover a wide range of travel niches and destinations.  In fact, The Travel Institute’s Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) course and exam provides an excellent base level for the travel industry as a whole, covering all aspects from selling air to cruises.  The Certified Travel Associate (CTA) program is mid-level, with more detail given to all areas of travel, and the Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) program is widely regarded as a hallmark of knowledge and professionalism.  Cruise specialists can highly benefit from the training provided by CLIA through their Associate Cruise Counsellor (ACC) and Master Cruise Counsellor (MCC) programs.

If you aren’t the type for a structured learning environment, Kelly Monagan’s Home Based Travel Agent Success Manual and Tom and Joanie Ogg’s various books provide a wealth of information that is essential for the serious professional.  Also, consider books by Mike Marchev and the CD’s put out by Nolan Burris.  Both cover aspects of the travel industry not typically found elsewhere.  Travel Research Online (webinar page), The Travel Institute, and other organizations in the industry sponsor webinars on a variety of topics as well.  Last, but not least, the Travel Agent Success Series deserves to be on the reference shelf of any serious travel professional.

Finding an experienced mentor in your area that you can meet with personally has also proven invaluable for many agents, especially if the mentor is willing to help you learn the basics rather than expecting you to have a basic level of understanding. 

In fact, Travel Research Online will be rolling out a mentoring program soon – be on the lookout for it, and take advantage of it!


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Be sure to check out the shore excursions offered by Shoretrips worldwide!

Yes, education like this costs money.  There is no money more wisely spent, however, than on one’s education.

Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a four-year industry veteran and owner of Journeys By Steve and Exclusive Events At Sea.  With Journeys By Steve, he offers up independent cruise vacations, escorted tours of Europe and the Holy Land, and culinary-themed travel  His newest venture, Exclusive Events At Sea, focuses on producing special event groups at sea.  He can be reached at steve@journeysbysteve.com.  Visit his website at http://www.JourneysBySteve.com or http://www.ExclusiveEventsAtSea.com.

  21 thoughts on “Serious Education Doesn’t Come In Tidbits

  1. 1Ann, CTC says:

    Thanks Steve. I often scratch my head when I run across a question like, “How do I book a car rental?” If you have to ask a question like that, then you need to spend a little more time training. But I also question those host agencies that will take on someone with no experience and not require that they complete some sort of training before letting them loose on the public.

  2. Thanks, Ann. I appreciate your comments!

  3. Excellent article Steve! In a nutshell, if someone is SERIOUS about starting and running a BUSINESS then education is imperative – on how to book a car rental, or how to invoice a client, or how to keep your accounting books in order. This is not a hobby industry. When you are dealing with someone else’s dreams, and their hard earned money, then you need to KNOW what you are doing. And flying by the seat of your pants is not professional.

  4. Steve,

    Excellent article. If a new “agent” has not made their travel education a priority then what value do they add to a customer? If an experienced agent has not made the effort to stay up to date on all aspects of their area of expertise, they are trying to sell yesterday’s knowledge. Uneducated, unprofessional agents providing a disservice leave themselves open to lawsuit.

    Glad you brought the issue of professionalism to the forefront.

    George

  5. 1Nona Mounir says:

    Los Medanos Community College in Pittsburg, California, has an online program that is accredited by the Travel Institute. It costs more if you’re not a resident of California, but they offer the basics and many destination specialist courses.

  6. Great article Steve. I think what lends itself to this problem is that beside the education, which a large number of bricks and mortor agencies required in the past before they would hire a travel agent, there is not a lot of mentoring going on in this industry. A new agent in a bricks and mortor agency would spend the first 6 months to a year filling travel brochures, listening to experienced agents working with clients, and being mentored before they were allowed to work with clients on their own. This does not happen with individules agents who just start a home based travel business. A lot of new home based agents get into the business because they love to travel. This is the wrong reason to get into the travel business or any business. You have to, during your due dilligence, take the time to understand the day to day operations of a travel business, the up sides of the busineess as well as the downsides of the travel business, who is the competition, how to run a business, have enough funding to run the business for a minimum of 18 months before taking any money out of the business, and what do they need to know to be successful in the travel business. All this needs to be done before you even think about getting into the business. The explosion of homebased businesses has, unfortunatly, created an enviornment where anyone can start a home based business without understanding the first thing about what it is going to take to be successful. Steve is correct, at a minimum learn the basics of the travel business before jumping in.

  7. 1Connie Sims says:

    Great article. I often wonder when reading some of those questions too. We are not in an “open up the box and begin” business. It does take education and ongoing research to stay current.

    Thanks for saying what a lot of us were thinking.

    Connie

  8. 1Mike Marchev says:

    Very good article Steve. I am reminded of a recent interview with a successful entrepreneur. When asked what he attributes his success to, he responded without hesitation, “I did the reading.” This is simply saying that he did his homework. There just doesn’t seem to be any shortcuts when it comes to paying your dues.
    Thanks for the endorsement … The Travel Agent Success Series. It really does contain valuable and useful information. And the presenters are all “happening” people.
    Good stuff Steve. Keep it up. Mike Marchev

  9. Great article, Steve. There should be some level of education before someone goes into the business. The forums serve a great purpose. However, agents have to take it upon themselves to educate themselves, rather than using these forums as a basis for learning the basics.

    Mag

  10. 1Pete Larson says:

    Great article Steve. While I’m still new in this industry, I completely agree with your statements. We live in the ‘Goggle Age’ where most any question has a very quick answer. Like many careers, education will never stop. You will NEVER know everything. You cannot. And its those who THINK they do, that are the ones to watch.
    I look at myself in this industry as a sponge. I surround myself with people I admire in the industry, and listen to what is being said…and learn from it. Out of all the responses so far…I closely follow or know 4 of you. My hat is off to all of you who have taught me, whether you know it or not. I follow you, I read you, I go out of my way to meet you. I’m like a ‘knowledge stalker’ and I’m on the loose!
    I’ve read books, traveled far and wide, and watched videos. I’ve spent the wee hours trying to better myself for my clients, and I love every minute of it.
    I get the best education out there in the streets, with my eyes wide open and my mouth shut most of the time. I’m busy absorbing.
    Thanks to you all for your help!

  11. I appreciate everyone’s comments here! Thank you! I’m glad to see I am not alone in thinking that personal education of our product and how to run a business is paramount to our ultimate success, regardless of what business we are in.

  12. WOW – what a great article Steve – and a topic that I’m fully immersed in at the moment as the new Director, Marketing & Technology at the Travel Institute!

    We’re rolling out on June 15th with a new amazing website that addresses a lot of what you touched on here – what we call the COMMUNIVERSITY – a community of online learning options, with over 600 courses broken down into tracks – and one is specifically titled “New to the Industry” – it’s a need, and we’re ready to meet it, alongside our great partners like the guys from the Success Series.

    Our aim is to become the definitive “Education Destination” – for all travel professionals, no matter the stage of their career.

    If anyone would like to see “behind the curtain” let me know. I’ve got some invites to hand out!

    Chelle (cyarbrough@thetravelinstitute.com)

  13. 1Nancy K. Roop says:

    Heartland Community College in Normal, IL also has an outstanding online Travel and Tourism Program which culminates in the TAP exam for students. The curriculum also offers a cruise course using the new CLIA text book written by Marc Mancini, and several DS courses. It is very affordable, and anyone, anywhere can enroll in the courses.

  14. 1Gayle Walsh says:

    Hello Steve, as the owner of a Personnel Travel Consultants/Temps and the job board http://www.hottraveljobs.com. Education is key, however, one thing that is lost in that education is that of the corporate travel agent. There are many corporate agents who want to get back into the business, but are turned away becuase they lack GDS knowledge, they also do not have the international skill level. There are many oppourtunites for those who are in the leisure business, but not much for the corporate agent. Recently I posed a question on our linkedin site for hottraveljobs asking a question about training. You may want to check it out. I have an intereresting perspective from both the employee and employer.

  15. 1With Caveat says:

    I agree also that it is important to have education and strive to better yourself. However, I also subscribe to the philosophy that no question is a silly question. The reason is that it is surprising how many basic simple things are a source of problems/mistakes even for the most experienced agents. And this is due to changes by the external environment often. For example, if someone asks do you need a visa for this country that is not at all a bad question. Visa rules can change in an instant and this one question can start a dialogue about be careful because this happened to my client. Or if someone asks the best way to block group space for a particular supplier like a cruise line, personal responses will come including possibly be careful and here are some special hints because this happened to me and you can avoid it. You get knowledge from many sources and don’t always trust google, articles, or forums alone. Do all your research and then verify. So to me, nothing wrong at all with someone new or experienced asking some questions that may seem basic but can lead to helpful – and hidden – insights for all!

  16. 1Fanny Pletka says:

    Thank you Steve for such an informative article..Dale Carnegie says, you cannot talk about a subject you have not earned the right to talk about…Travel is what we do and we do it in a professional way. Many people today who are claiming to be travel agents haven’t left their city.

    Every day is a learning experience, we must continue educating ourselves by ongoing, training and attending as many CLIA seminars, Webinars, etc and most of all keeping current by reading travel trade magazines on and off line. Steve keep those informative articles coming.

  17. 1Joanne Hunt says:

    Many valid points in the above responses and I’m certain that most of those commenting would agree that uninformed “travel agents” reflect very badly on our industry as whole. I find it troubling to think that those of us who have invested so much time and effort improving our skills and updating our education are often confused with untrained.

  18. 1Barbara Oliver says:

    Great article Steve! Chelle – I noticed your new position – congrats! Look forward to seeing what the Travel Institute has to offer!

  19. 1Linda says:

    I totally get what the article is saying but to play the devil’s advocate, as a brand new agent, I completed travel school, most of the training at my host agency, and am currentlly doing the training on Mexico through the Mexican tourism board.
    With that said, I STILL come across things I don’t truly understand until I’ve delt with them through actual experience. I’m glad I can pop into a forum with questions.
    The lack of mentors IS truly a disadvantage as every day I come up against stumbliing blocks that would be quickly resolved if I had a mentor to consult.

  20. 1Laura says:

    Great article Steve! It amazes me that people think they can just roll out of bed and become a travel agent. It takes training, fams, business classes and more. And you never stop learning.
    Sadly there are too many host agencies that will allow people to sign up with no training at all. There needs to be higher standards in our industry.
    Ohio University offers a great travel program that is also available online.

  21. 1Mary says:

    Kudos to Steve for a well written article. Anyone with a pulse and a checkbook can be a travel agent nowdays. We are sorely needed standards especially as we move towards being consultants. Just because I can point and click on WebMd it doesn’t make me a doctor any more than pointing and clicking online makes one a travel agent. It takes dedication, training, updating education, sales, marketing and business acumen.

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